The Hex and Hearthstone threads keep going on tangents about other games, so for the benefit of those who are interested in the genre but may not follow those threads, let's centralize discussion of the digital CCG genre as a whole, how the titles compare to one another, and any new or noteworthy ones that may arise.
Personally, I couldn't be happier with the turnaround over the past year. As recently as early 2013, the genre seemed pretty moribund, defined by a couple niche titles like PoxNora limping along toward irrelevancy, MTGO doing its own thing simultaneously bolstered and held back by rigorous adherence to the physical game, and a bunch of shallow and predatory f2p "card battlers" on mobile platforms. Now, there's an embarrassment of riches, with no less than five games live or in reasonably complete early access that are polished and well-designed enough to keep me coming back and hopping between them, and several more in the pipeline.
The Frontrunners (as determined completely unscientifically by the ones I keep coming back to play on a regular basis).
- Hex: Shards of Fate: From the makers of the WoWTCG. The rules skeleton could be described as Magic 2.0 plus card permanence across all zones and a massive design space for cards that would be impossible or clunky in a paper game but work perfectly with a computer doing the bookkeeping. The only one to keep the concept of instant-speed effects to keep the opponent guessing about whether you can interrupt their turn. Also plans a whole extensive PvE MMO side.
- Hearthstone: From Blizzard. Easily the biggest name recognition so far due to the Warcraft theme and Blizzard's reach. Great accessibility, presentation, and polish.
- SolForge: From the makers of Ascension. The big innovation is the removal of any sort of mana/resource system, replaced with cards that level up when played to become stronger next time around, making for choices of whether to strengthen position now or develop a late-bloomer.
- Infinity Wars: From previous unknowns. Uses a WEGO simultaneous turn system that leads to lots of satisfying attempts to outguess which zones the opponent's troops will be in. Also has "commanders" that start in play, letting you build decks with a guarantee of having access to particular card effects. Use invite code DB4BF if you decide to try it.
- Might & Magic Duel of Champions: From Ubisoft. A 4x2 battle grid for each player with the ability to target rows and columns leads to satisfying positional tactics. The harbinger of the current resurgence, it was the first out the gate in early 2013, and actually relaunched just today with Base Set 2.0 and a bunch of improvements.
I can vouch for every one of these as worthwhile in their own regard, with unique strengths and active communities. Feel free to drop me a line in-game or on Steam if you want some help getting started in any of them.
Others (some of these might be good, but I don't have significant experience with them and many aren't out yet)
- Scrolls: Mixes a CCG with battlefield tactics. Single-purchase model with all cards acquired through play rather than booster packs, but the reception at launch was pretty muted.
- Faeria: Also has a tactical map and single-purchase model. Nice soothing art. Never been anyone online in the current beta when I've tried to check it out.
- Conquest of Champions: The next project from the makers of PoxNora. Based on a tactical map that apparently takes place on the side of a barrel, with 20% of the field needing to be rotated into view. I'm concerned by the mechanic of leveling up cards between matches with spare cards and materials, as it could easily become a P2W grind on top of just acquiring cards.
- Alteil Horizons: Modernization and relaunch of a game that held a devoted community for 10 years, which is a solid sign. One unique aspect is being able to choose any card form a spellbook rather than drawing from a deck, with randomness instead coming from targeting and damage.
- Chromancer: Big concept is the ability to destroy the opponent's core deck/graveyard/resource capabilities rather than an abstract life total. Lots of big talk and ideas, but some warning signs and a sense of indie entitlement.
I'll add more links to this first post over time to help people looking for something to play. One nice thing is that most of them are free to try, and give a starter and enough of a trickle of new cards to get a sense of whether they're for you before getting to the point of needing to buy cards.